• Jules

Champagne Taste on a Shoestring Budget: A Week of EASY Plant-Based Meals from Trader Joe's


If you're reading this, chances are you don't have a lot of extra time on your hands, so I'll cut to the chase. (And if you don't have access to Trader Joe's, I promise you'll still find inspiration here.) If you prefer the visual version, check out my corresponding video!


Here's what you'll get from this post:

  • Four recipes that will provide 16+ individual meals

  • Meal planning tips

  • Shopping list

  • Cost breakdown

  • A bonus treat hack for your pooch!

What's more, these recipes...

  • don't require ANY pantry staples or ANY kitchen gadgets (beyond the ability to heat up frozen food and boil gnocchi/pasta)

  • contain mix and match ingredients so you can create extra (or different) meals

  • pack up wonderfully if you're on the go or want to make it all ahead of time!

STEP ONE: Make Your Plan


Each week, I grab a recycled piece of paper and pen (#eldermillennial) and jot down what I feel like eating for the week. That's right. Even on a budget, I let my cravings and mood dictate the grocery list! This makes meal planning feel fun instead of onerous.


This week, my primary craving was SIMPLICITY. I put my more "complex" cravings in the bottom right corner to consider for next week.

I crave simplicity...and sandwiches. Always sandwiches.


Three keys to meal planning on a budget

  1. Consider what ingredients you already have on hand.

  2. Try to shop for items you can use across multiple meals.

  3. Keep it simple!

Considering this + cravings + not wanting to spend time in the kitchen this week, I decided my four meals would be...


The Four Meals

(Scroll to view)

  1. Loaded Everything "Bagels"

  2. Falafel Wraps

  3. The Best Salad Ever

  4. Gourmet Gnocchi

STEP TWO: Shop

  • Arugula (1 bag)

  • Spinach (1 bag)

  • Plum tomatoes (3)

  • Sweet potatoes (2-lb bag)

  • Cucumber (1)

  • Vegan feta cheese (1 container)

  • Vegan parmesan cheese (1 bag)

  • Vegan cream cheese (1 container)

  • Tofurkey Italian sausage (1 package)

  • Dried cranberries (1 bag)

  • Candied pecans (1 bag)

  • Goddess salad dressing (1 bottle)

  • Frozen falafel (1 bag)

  • Frozen chick'n tenders (1 bag)

  • Sundried tomatoes (jar packed with oil)

  • Gnocchi or your favorite pasta (1 package)

  • Everything ciabatta rolls (1 package - 4 rolls)

  • Burrito-sized tortillas (1 package)

STEP THREE: Cook (well, kind of)

Which means it's time for recipes - these are so simple I almost hesitate to call them that!


MEAL #1 - Loaded Everything "Bagels"


(Makes 4 "bagels")

  • Everything ciabatta rolls (1 package)

  • Vegan cream cheese (1/2 package)

  • 1 plum tomato, sliced

  • 1/3 cucumber, sliced

  • Arugula (about 1/2 cup)

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Toast the ciabatta rolls (they're already sliced in half because Trader Joe's knows what's up), schmear with a generous helping of cream cheese, and top with sliced tomatoes, cucumber, and arugula (and salt and pepper if you please)!


MEAL #2 - Falafel Wraps

(Makes 4+ wraps)

  • Burrito-sized tortillas (1 package)

  • Frozen falafel (1 package), heated

  • 1/3 cucumber, diced

  • 1 plum tomato, diced

  • Arugula (about 1/2 cup)

  • Vegan feta cheese (1/2 package), crumbled

  • OPTIONAL: vegan cream cheese (1/2 package) + dried dill and/or goddess salad dressing (SEE NOTES)

Microwave falafel for about 1 minute or until warmed through. Inside each tortilla, sprinkle 1/4 of your crumbled feta, chopped tomato, cucumber, and arugula. Place three falafel balls on top. Wrap and enjoy!


NOTES: If this seems too dry, you have so many options! You can soften your leftover cream cheese (leftover from your everything "bagels"), stir in some dried dill (or not), and spread this onto each tortilla before adding the rest of the ingredients. And/or pour some goddess dressing [which you bought for recipe #3, The Best Salad Ever] on top before you wrap it up!


Other Trader Joe's items that taste wonderful in a falafel wrap: diced red bell pepper, sliced black olives, vegan tzatziki sauce, hummus (just about any flavor), and herbed tahini sauce!


MEAL #3 - The Best Salad Ever

(Makes 4+ salads)

  • Arugula (1 package - reserve some for falafel wraps and "bagels" [optional])

  • Dried cranberries (about 3/4 cup), chopped

  • Candied pecans (1 package), chopped

  • Vegan feta (1/2 package), crumbled

  • Chick'n tenders (1 package), heated

  • Goddess dressing (to taste)

  • OPTIONAL: chopped tomato and cucumber (leftover from falafel wraps and "bagels")

Microwave chick'n tenders until warm. (You could use an oven or toaster oven to cook your chick'n tenders, but of course that'll add time to the prep. If you want to go the extra mile and get 'em toasty faster: after heating through in the microwave for about a minute, put under the oven broiler or in your toaster oven until toasted on each side.)


Arrange arugula on a large plate and pile on the rest of your ingredients to your heart's content!

Not feeling the goddess dressing? Trader Joe's has lots of other vegan dressings or you can easily whip up my favorite: this simple, creamy agave-mustard dressing (featured in this video):

  • 1/2 cup vegan mayo

  • 2 T your favorite mustard

  • 1-2 T agave

  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Mix together in a small bowl and bam! Restaurant quality dressing! (You can easily adjust these ratios to your liking; I prefer a creamy, less sweet dressing.)


NOTES: This salad also makes a great wrap filling if you want to use up the rest of those tortillas and/or make it a handheld meal!


MEAL #4 - Gourmet Gnocchi (or Pasta)

(serves 4-8 - SEE NOTES)

  • Gnocchi (1 package), boiled for 3 minutes -OR- 1/2 package (8 oz) of your favorite pasta, cooked according to package instructions - SEE NOTES

  • Tofurky Italian sausage (2 links), sliced - SEE NOTES

  • Sundried tomatoes packed in oil (1 jar)

  • Spinach (1 package)

  • Vegan parmesan cheese (1/2 to 1 package)

  • Salt and pepper to taste

In the large pot you used to cook your gnocchi or pasta (keep burner heated to medium high), pour out the entire jar of sundried tomatoes. Add your sliced "sausage" and cook until the sausage begins to brown. Dump in the bag of spinach and place a lid on the pot for a minute or so, until the spinach begins to wilt. Stir. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the vegan parmesan shreds and the cooked gnocchi or pasta, stirring to combine. Season to taste.


Top each serving with extra parm and dig in!

NOTES: You can easily stretch this recipe to 8 servings (vs. 4) by boiling an entire package of pasta and using all four Tofurky sausage links. In that case, you may want to add a little extra oil (although the sundried tomatoes do provide a generous amount) and use the whole bag of parmesan!


BONUS HACK - Dog treats!


My ultra famous senior vegan dog, Uncle Jesse, LOVES this hack. Instead of buying stale, packaged Frankenfood dog treats, I simply grab a bag of sweet potatoes when doing my weekly Trader Joe's run.

I mean he REALLY loves sweet potatoes.

  • 1 2-lb bag of sweet potatoes = about a week's worth of 'treats'

This adds almost no time or money to my weekly routine; I just dump them in the sink, wash 'em, prick 'em with a fork, and roast @ 425F for an hour while I go do other things. BAM! Your dog will have a delicious, nutritious snack for the week for under two bucks! (And the two of you can even share!)

FINAL COST BREAKDOWN

And there you have it - a full belly for under $10/day! What are some of your favorite Trader Joe's products?

Be sure to follow us on social media (@plantbasedpoint) for more budget-friendly, plant-based meal ideas!
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